Glossary of Technical Theatre Terms


10 OUT OF 12
(USA) A contractual term for a long all-day actor (or crew) call. A typical contract will have at least one of these days, when the actors may be kept at work for 10 hours out of a maximum of 12. During the 12 hour period covered (e.g. 9am to 9pm) there will be either two 1 hour breaks or one two hour break for food, and a total of 10 hours of work. Whilst the work day is long, the intensity allows a great deal of progress to be made. American Actors's Equity only allows a period of 10 out of 12 rehearsal during the 7 days before a performance opens.

ABTT Logo (from the ABTT website) (UK) The Association of British Theatre Technicians, which was formed in 1961 as a charity, to provide a forum for discussion among theatre technicians, architects and managers of all disciplines, and disseminate information of a technical nature, to all its members.
ABTT Website

Acronym for Americans with Disabilities Act, which became law in 1990. It covers similar ground to the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) which became law in 1995 in the UK. Both Acts are designed to outlaw any kind of discrimination against people with any form of disability. 
The acronyms ADA and DDA are used also to describe the amendments that are made to procedures, buildings and resources to comply with the Act. 

Arts & Entertainment Technical Training Initiative (UK).

An agent is a representative and promoter for actors and writers. The agents are contacted by producers and casting directors, and the agents contact the artists who are suitable for the roles / jobs. 

One who privately finances a production, usually often with several other backers; their identity is traditionally kept private. May be an individual or a company. 
See also PRODUCER.

The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers is a not-for-profit performance rights organisation that protects its members' musical copyrights by monitoring public performances of their music, whether via a broadcast or live performance, and compensating them accordingly.
ASCAP website

A service greatly appreciated by those with impaired vision, Audio Description involves a describer sitting at the rear of the auditorium (in the booth if there is room) providing a narration describing the action on stage. The skill is in not getting in the way of the on stage dialogue, sound effects or other audible movements on stage, but filling in where vision would help with the plot.
Making Theatre Accessible

1) Scenic piece which goes behind an opening in the set (window etc.) to hide the technical areas beyond. Also known as a Backing Flat
2) The money invested in a commercial production (by a Backer).

British Association for Performing Arts Medicine. Specialist health and safety support for performers and technicians.
British Association for Performing Arts Medicine website

Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinematograph and Theatre Union. The UK entertainment technicians union. (US equivalent is IATSE)
BECTU website

Member of the theatre staff responsible for the operation of the Box Office, including customer service standards, ticket sales in person, by phone or online, and the correct recording of ticket sales, repayments to theatre companies etc.

(USA) A type of touring performance (theatre or music) where the performers travel in a bus (or nowadays, a plane) and the scenery, props, costumes, lighting & sound equipment etc travels in a truck. 

Adult who takes responsibility for a group of young people while they're away from their parents. A legal requirement when working with children (and a relief for the stage management team!)

The final performance of a show in front of a paying audience. 
Although some amateur groups enjoy playing pranks on each other on the last night, this should not happen in professional theatre - audiences that have paid for the performance should be given the same performance each time, and not run the risk of the performance falling apart because the cast are making each other laugh. A tightly rehearsed performance, involving moving scenery, flying items, complex choreography, rehearsad stage combat etc risks hurting or injuring performers (or worse) if the rehearsed sequences are deviated from. 

A formal request from a company to an individual to carry out an agreed piece of work. New writing is commissioned by a theatre or theatre company from a writer, who is said to have been given a commission. 

Short for Complimentary ticket. Free of charge ticket issued to company members or special guests. Each venue has their own policy about numbers of comps that cast / crew may be entitled to. There are often House Comps, which are good seats not sold to the public until others are sold out, which are used for VIP guests. 
In the past it had to be initialled by the General/House/Company Manager to ensure its authority, and a record kept by the Box Office Manager.

UK Regulations introduced in 2015 covering any construction project. Many live event construction projects (e.g. building set, raised stages etc) are covered by the regulations. 
UK Health and Safety Executive website

Auditorium seating layout where there is no central aisle, but wider spacing between rows to allow people to pass those that are already seated.

In accounting, a CONTRA is a financial entry indicating a credit instead of a debt, on a debtor's account. It indicates when a debtor (e.g. a production company) has built up a credit, which a creditor (e.g. a hire company) needs to supply goods against. 
Deduction made by the Bricks & Mortar Management from its final payment to the Visiting Management, for expenditure incurred by the theatre on behalf of the Visiting/Touring Management. The amount charged varied according to the management's contract, but could include electricity used, staff over and above the normal crew, and even the 'first night thank you' reception

The advertised start time of the performance. This may be delayed by the late arrival of a large party, but regularly starting late because of box office queues should be avoided.

A venue that has been closed to the public. Some theatres go dark temporarily during production periods, when the next show is in preparation on stage. To keep the audience (and their money) coming in, some venues show films or have other activities not involving the stage.

Acronym for the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) which became law in 1995 in the UK. It covers similar ground to the Americans with Disabilities Act, which became law in 1990. Both Acts are designed to outlaw any kind of discrimination against people with any form of disability. 
The acronyms ADA and DDA are used also to describe the amendments that are made to procedures, buildings and resources to comply with the Act. 

An instruction from a manager (or team leader) to stop work, usually as a form of protest, or as part of union-led industrial action.

The Education Director is a member of the theatre staff and is responsible for fulfilling the outreach and educational programme of the theatre or company. 
This may involve organising activities and workshops, meeting with school teachers about organising trips and workshops, managing staff, preparing and delivering an Education Plan, conceiving and directing youth performances as the outcome of workshops etc. They may also develop resources on current productions.
In some organisations they may also be known as the Education Manager, Outreach Co-Ordinator etc.

1) A donation of money (or property) from a benefactor to a non-profit organisation, to use for a specified purpose. 
2) Exercise for actors developed by Uta Hagen in the book 'Respect for Acting', which helps them to view a prop as something more than it is, or to endow it with emotional significance. 

(US) A theatre which can employ actors and stage management who are members of the Actors Equity Association. 
Members of the union are not permitted to work in non-Equity houses. 


The opening night of a theatre performance often has a largely invited audience of people connected with the show but not directly involved in it (financial backers, contractors etc.)

Pseudonym given to actors or crew who do not wish to be credited for their role in a particular project, usually in the film industry. 

The theatre community is very close, and news/rumours often spread via unofficial routes. This so-called GRAPEVINE means that people are often well-informed about latest news. It is also very important to make a good impression on everyone you meet in the business, as bad impressions will be spread around the grapevine very quickly. Modern tools such as Twitter have made the grapevine even more widely spread, and great care must be taken to not publish anything on Twitter that you wouldn't say to someones face.

(Abbreviated to H&S) UK term to cover a range of legislation and guidance on how to work safely, and to reduce accidents or incidents. 
The legal component is the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974), but there are a number of regulations which relate to safe working. 
Safety in Live Entertainment on

Seating in a VIP area, or the best seats in the house, sold to corporate (business) clients for them to offer as incentives or gifts to employees or suppliers etc. Hospitality packages are available to many large music or sports events.

Some seats are reserved in large auditoria, in case the theatre or show management need to retain the ability to give out tickets to VIP visitors or guests. These House Seats are sometimes made available at the last minute at the theatre box office, even if the show appears to be sold out. 

1) Now more likely to be called a Producer, the Impresario organised and financed the performing arts. Term originated in the Italian opera, in the mid 18th Century.
2) Automation control console and system by AVW Controls in London, UK.
AVW Controls website

A member of the creative team who works with the director and actors on any scenes involving nudity, intimacy or sexual contact. The role of a fight director is well-documented and a vital role when any on-stage combat is involved, to choreograph the movement to ensure the actors' safety. The Intimacy Director does the same job to ensure the actors are comfortable with the scene, and that the movements are choreographed to fulfil the directors' requirements, and that the movements do not change during the run of performances.
More about the Intimacy Director

Independent Theatre Council (UK)
ITC website

The most significant role in a play or film that is performed by a young actor.

1) The leading actor (regardless of gender) plays the main character in a play or musical. The term is sometimes genderised (the 'leading man' is the male actor and the 'leading lady' is the female actor).
2) Another word for a cable, usually a short connection between pieces of equipment.

Abbreviation for Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (UK Health & Safety Executive).

(Colloquial term) The 'nut' is a break-even point, after which the show can pay it's bills. It's calculated either show by show or for the length of the production (some costly shows don't make their 'nut' until well into the run). The origin of the term is believed to be 'to survive, a squirrel has to find at least a nut a day. For a person to survive, they must make at least $xx a day -this dollar figure is their 'nut'.'


Afternoon performance of a show. (From the Latin for 'of the morning', but who does theatre in the morning?)

Often used as a code word for fire over a public address system (e.g. 'Mr Sands is in the foyer' means there's a fire in the foyer). Many theatres have their own code words.

Material Safety Data Sheet. Form available from manufacturers of, for example, smoke fluids. Lists any hazardous ingredients and other safety-related data about the product.

M.U. is short for Musicians Union (UK).
Musicians Union website

A tour (of a show) that is booked into the best venues available in each area.

The first performance of a show in front of a paying audience. 
Some new complex shows may have lower priced Preview performances before an official opening night, to allow the show to get up to speed and deal with any technical issues. The press is not allowed to review a show during previews, and are invited to the first official performance, which is then known as Press Night. 

(USA) Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Set up by Congress following the Occupational Safety and Health Act in 1970 'to assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.'
Equivalent to the Health & Safety Executive in the UK. 
OSHA Website

Marketing technique. Giving away tickets to a performance (eg Opening Night) to make a show seem to be selling better than it actually is, and to start generating 'word of mouth' interest.

A patron is a person that gives financial (or other) support to a project. This support is known as PATRONAGE. |

Short for Private Automatic Exchange. A type of internal-only analogue telephone system used in some organisations. PABX systems added the ability to dial externally (often by pressing 9 for an outside line).

(Abbreviation for Per Diem, Latin for Daily) A daily payment by an employer to touring technicians to cover daily living expenses. This is additional to the monthly / weekly wage.

1) The frequency of a sound defines the pitch. A higher frequency gives a higher pitch note. See PITCH CONTROL.
2) The seat pitch is the distance between one row of audience seating, and the same point on the next row. 

Contract drawn up for an actor when casting is not complete.

1) A poster advertising a forthcoming variety show, originally shown with a list of the acts performing.
2) (US) Brochure produced for American theatres as a wrap around for the programme of a particular show. The wraparound content is the same for all theatres across the country and contains news, features and advertising.
3) Also used as a generic name for the programme of a theatre production (listing scenes, cast, creative team, and possibly an article by the creative team about the creation of the show etc.)
Playbill website

An occasional chance for the audience to stay in the auditorium after a performance to hear the director or actors talk about the performance, and to answer questions from the audience.


Normally used for someone who's regularly paid for a particular job (as opposed to an amateur, who does it for fun). A professional attitude is essential when working in the theatre - this means you have to behave as if you were being paid. The theatre world is a very small community - if you behave badly or upset someone, it's highly likely you'll meet them again, and they will remember you!

A brochure or leaflet produced for the audience which contains a breakdown of the cast and creative team (and technical team) that have worked on the show. The programme may also contain a synopsis of the plot, a list of musical numbers, a note from the director, and full biographies of cast and creative team.
A Souvenir Programme contains full colour photos and more generic information which has a longer shelf life for a long-running show.

A professionally-filmed version of a live stage show. Most shows will have short excerpts filmed for promotional purposes or for trailers, but not all can afford the high costs of filming the entire performance. 
Playbill: Why You Can/'t Stream Broadway Shows

Short for Research and Development.
This describes an experimental phase of a project when different ideas are played with, as the piece of work is being created.

A venue which has incoming touring companies (as opposed to a Producing House, which creates it's own productions). See also ROADHOUSE.

Often used to describe a seat in an older theatre from which some parts of the stage are obscured either by columns supporting the seating, or because it's at the side of the venue, or behind a balcony railing. Usually cheaper than other seats, and often not quite as bad as they sound. More modern venues are built with the intention that every seat is a good one. Older venues, particularly in large cities, may have been built as variety houses, where the main act was downstage centre, and as long as that was clearly visible, the seats were all fine. 

1) (USA) A regional theatre, or resident theatre, in the United States is a professional or semi-professional theatre company that produces its own seasons. The term regional theatre most often refers to a professional theatre outside New York City. A regional theatre may be a non-profit, commercial, union, or non-union house.
2) (UK) A theatre outside London. 

A form of organisation where two or more productions alternate in the course of a season.

A form of organisation, usually with a permanent company of actors, where each production has a run of limited length. At any time, there is normally one production in performance, another in rehearsal and several others in varying degrees of planning.
The first repertory theatre in England was Miss A.E.F.Horniman's Company at the Gaiety Theatre in Manchester, founded in 1908.
Often shortened to 'Rep'.

1) Flats joined to the DS edge of flats of a set or unit that 'return' into the wings. They help mask and also keep the DS edge of a set from looking raw.
2) A financial report given to theatre management staff by the box office manager on a daily or weekly basis setting out the takings for performances (known as the Box Office Returns). 
3) Route for an auxiliary signal back into a sound mixer (see also SEND).

Abbreviation for Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations, 2013 (UK Health & Safety Executive)
Reporting Accidents and Incidents At Work - A Brief Guide (HSE)

(Technical Rider)  A rider lists all of the requirements (logistical and technical) that an incoming company requires a venue to provide on arrival. The rider should cover lighting, sound, staging and dressing room requirements, and should describe the show in enough detail that the venue can take decisions about how to prepare the venue. 

(US) Venue which receives touring shows. (RECEIVING HOUSE in the UK)

The prescribed fee paid to an author or his agent for the performing rights of a play.

Term for an item of scenery or prop required for a production.

Smoke Detector (Photo-Electric sensor) Many theatre buildings have complex fire alarm systems installed. Some theatre spaces have smoke detectors in them, which trigger a fire alarm when the space fills with smoke. The use of SMOKE MACHINES in these spaces can (and does) result in expensive call-outs of the fire department and evacuated auditoria.
There are special heat-sensitive detectors called RATE OF RISE detectors which trigger a fire alarm when the temperature rises faster than it should normally. Properly calibrated (and regularly tested) these can be as effective than the smoke detectors (which work by 'seeing' smoke particles in the air). If it's not possible to get Rate of Rise detectors installed in your theatre space instead of smoke detectors, you may be able (subject to local building regulations and local fire department advice) to isolate the smoke detectors for the duration of the performance when you use smoke effects. Properly designed alarm systems incorporate timed isolation, so that smoke detectors are only off for a specific period, and automatically come on after that period.

Society of London Theatres (UK)

Abbreviation for Standing Room Only (i.e. there are no seats left in the auditorium). Standing room is not available in all venues, and depends on the number of people the licencing authority has licenced the venue for. If standing room is available, the number of people that can be admitted to the standing areas is limited, to ensure a safe evacuation is possible in the event of a fire or other emergency.

(USA) Union for theatre directors & choreographers, founded in 1959, and based in New York. Abbreviated to SDC.
SDC Website

A type of payment to the cast and crew to help towards expenses incurred during the production process. The amount is usually based on the total money the show brings in, but sometimes it can be a set amount.
From Middle English stipendium (from Latin) meaning a fixed sum of money paid periodically for services or to defray expenses.
Submitted by Amy McIntire

1) An actor who appears on stage but does not speak.
2) A member of staff over and above the number required to carry out a task.

To be confirmed. In a cast list, this can be taken to mean To be cast.


(UK Health & Safety) Any structure built for an event, whether it's staging, seating or a marquee or similar outdoor structure. 
UK Health and Safety Executive website

There are a wide range of types of theatre across the world, and no standard etiquette which apples to every venue. 
However, there are some base rules for audience members. 
1) Arrive on time - latecomers are disruptive to other audience members and the performers
2) Do not eat during the performance. Some performances allow you to take a drink in with you, but eating noisy food is frowned on. Sweets / candies are fine, but avoid noisy wrappers. Save any larger food (especially anything smelly) until after the show. 
3) Do not film or record the performance in any way. This is always against the rules, and will result in staff warning you, disrupting the performance. Do not take photos during the show. 
4) Turn off ringtones. If you need to keep your mobile on, please make it silent. Do not look at the phone during the performance. 
5) Dress appropriately - you are not expected to wear full evening dress at the theatre (except for formal events) so wear comfortable smart casual clothing. Remove hats during the show. 
6) Show appropriate appreciation (laughing at jokes, applauding at suitable times) but do not sing along or be too vocal at your favourite bit. 
7) Do not talk during the performance
8) Use the toilet before the performance or during the interval - leaving your seat during the show disrupts the performance.

Often abbreviated to T.I.E. The use of theatrical techniques to educate, covering social issues or topics on the school's syllabus.

Common name for theatres in the UK. The Theatre Royal, Bristol is the oldest working theatre in the country, opened in 1766.

Also known as Scalping, the process of reselling tickets at higher than face value is known as touting. They are often vastly over-priced. Many shows require ID to prove that the person holding the ticket is the same person named on the ticket, and tickets are not transferable between people. 

Theatrical Management Association (UK) has since 1894 represented and supported theatrical organisations all across the UK. In 2014 the organisation changed it's structure and membership plans and is now known as UK Theatre.
UK Theatre Website

When a production is popular, it sometimes moves to a new venue, but with the same production team and cast. This may be to a new part of the country, or to another venue in the same area. The move is known as a TRANSFER. 
If a UK production starts in a regional theatre, it may aspire to a West-End Transfer, into the London theatre district. 

Some audience members may be upset by particular themes that may be featured in some plays.
It's important that the creative team are aware of these themes, and how they may affect audience members, and if necessary consult with local support groups or charities that can provide advice on how to deal with the issues sensitively.
Although some venues may list the themes in advance publicity, others (such as The Old Vic in London) prefer to keep the trigger warnings unseen unless audience members ring the theatre in advance.

A fully-staged run of a show in a provincial location before the show opens in a higher-profile location such as the West End of London or Broadway in New York.
The tryout run allows the show to be fine-tuned, to amend (or cut) sections which are unnecessary or don't work, and can also build word-of-mouth, and enable the production to have publicity photos etc before the show arrives at its' final destination for a (hopefully) long run.
Although many Broadway shows use out-of-town tryouts (e.g. Dear Evan Hansen (Washington DC), Frozen (Denver)), there are notable exceptions. Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark was too technically complex to be set up in another venue, so the show had a hugely extended run of previews on Broadway, and suffered with many technical and logistical issues, as well as the departure of a key member of the creative team. However, shows such as Book of Mormon and School of Rock opened 'cold' on Broadway and have gone on to huge success. The cost of tryouts is increasing (see OnStage Blog) so a tryout is no longer the only option.
See also PREVIEW

The changeover between one show and the text. It's important that the administration team scheduling the performances takes into account the time it will take to reset the stage back to 'clear' and then set up for the next show, ideally not involving overnight work!

(USA) Union for stage designers and scenic artists. Founded in 1897.
USA website

(Australia) Abbreviation for Work Health & Safety Management. 
Workplace Health and Safety Management System

(Especially USA) Box Office or Ticket Booth at an event where you collect previously ordered tickets for that event, on the day of the event. Ensure you take relevant forms of ID so that the staff are able to release the tickets to you. 
Formerly known in the UK as COBO (or Care Of Box Office).